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How do you take care of an Alocasia Polly? Alocasia Polly is a gorgeous tropical plant that has found a home with many caregiving plant lovers around the world. Its lovely, arrow-shaped leaves provide a wonderful, green and lush feel to a corner of your living room. It’s sometimes called an Elephant’s ear or African mask plant.
Of the Alocasia varieties, Polly grows at an average rate – not too fast, but not too slowly, either. It can grow to around 1.5 to 2 feet (an average of around 20 inches) in height.
Let’s dive into how to care for this gorgeous plant, along with some simple answers to frequently asked questions.
Alocasia Polly is a plant that will reward loving care with beautiful foliage and a gloriously decorated room. But it does admittedly ask for a little more than you might think at first glance.
It has a reputation for being a somewhat fussy customer. But don’t let that deter you.
Let’s take a look at the best care you can give your Alocasia plant care, and with a bit of luck, you’ll sow the seeds of a beautiful, long relationship.
Alocasia Polly is an easy plant to satisfy when it comes to fertilizer. In the first year, it’s generally not required to add any.
When the plant reaches a year old, all that’s needed is a light fertilizer feeding once a month during the active season (spring and summer).
In winter, the plant slows growth, so fertilization will not be absolutely necessary.
A standard quality liquid fertilizer should be sufficient to keep the plant healthy.
Alocasia plant leaves are nicely sized for regular dusting. Dusting does two things: Obviously, it can make your plant look great! It can offer a bit of shine and sheen.
But dusting has an added benefit. Keeping the leaves fairly clean allows your plant to photosynthesize more efficiently. Use a light dusting cloth; it can even be a little damp.
Wipe both the tops and undersides and while you’re doing it, take a look for any signs of the dreaded spider mite (more on this later).
Tropical and sub-tropical environments are humid and damp. It rains often there. The soil for good Alocasia Polly care should imitate this to a fair degree.
But that doesn’t mean it should be soaking wet. Damp is the best way to describe the optimal soil conditions.
So, a regular light watering is in order – try a watering schedule if you’re bad with remembering.
The soil should not be wet! Just mildly damp, and it should drain well. Misting the plant will also be an ideal addition to the regimen.
It’s possible to either underwater or overwater your Polly. A dry Polly will suffer from wilting. Your leaves will look droopy and dry, and may even discolor.
But be careful not to overwater, as this will cause some more serious problems like root rot and fungal infection.
Overwatering plants also result in the plant struggling to draw important nutrients from the soil. The plant may start to wilt or turn yellow as well.
While Alocasia Polly enjoys some light, it doesn’t like direct sunlight. Keep it out of the direct rays, or you may find that your leaves start to brown or burn. A decently shaded corner with indirect sunlight should do just fine.
If you suffer from dark winters (or really short winter days), you can experiment with placing the Polly right next to a sunny window, but behind a filter – like a sheer curtain. You don’t want to starve the plant of light either.
If your alocasia Polly is struggling to grow or seems to go dormant even in spring or summer, it may need to be moved to a spot with more light. The plant will not grow in low light.
The Polly likes warmer temperatures. Ideally, you should try to keep its environment above 60° F.
Your plant will generally be unhappy with anything less than that. If your Polly is too cold, it will become dormant.
With that in mind, remember that these plants will not do well in direct sunlight, either. So, putting yours in the sun to keep warm is not a good idea.
Alocasia Polly is one of those plants that doesn’t require much pruning. But if you feel that some leaves are getting old or yellowing, it’s ok to cut those away if they are spoiling the overall look of the plant.
If you feel your Alocasia is becoming overgrown, you can cut up to a third of the plant leaves away for shape, and to promote new growth.
Sometimes, an Alocasia Polly flowers! Interestingly, owners do not always want this to happen. The flowers use up a lot of the plant’s resources.
If an alocasia Polly presents flowers, some of its leaves may begin to look withered and weak. So, it becomes a question of whether you want flowers over leaves.
Many owners actually prefer the leaves and foliage of the plant, so they actively try to inhibit the growth of flowers by cutting away the first signs of a flowering shoot.
The flowers themselves aren’t especially dramatic. They are usually white, and present as a number of small flowers called a spadix. The flower lasts for a month or so, then dries up and falls off.
Alocasia Polly is a subtropical plant and enjoys a good level of humidity. If the air in your home tends to dry out, consider investing in a humidifier.
At the very least, occasionally mist your leaves with a spray bottle. You could also try a pebble tray, which you can pour water into.
The Polly pot sits on top of the tray, and the evaporating water provides some necessary humidity.
Soil is always a key factor in making plants thrive. In the case of Alocasia Polly, it needs a well-draining soil or potting mix that emulates its native subtropical soil as much as possible.
Experts recommend a peat-based potting mix. This is because peat drains really well and doesn’t hold onto excess moisture, which can cause problems like root rot or other fungal infections.
Ideally, the soil should be damp. If it’s soggy, it’s too wet. Make sure your pot has enough holes, and that your soil is draining well enough. Also, make sure you’re not overwatering.
A recent tip from experts regarding enhancing your soil’s drainage and absorption: Line the bottom of the pot with coco coir.
Then add the regular peat-based potting mix. Remember to not bury the plant too deeply, or pack the soil too tightly.
If you’re a serious planter, you’ll want to know how to propagate your plant. Alocasia Polly is best propagated through division.
Propagation may become useful if you’re looking to acquire more plants, but also if you feel one particular pot has become overcrowded. Here’s a basic rundown of what propagation of Alocasia Polly entails.
The roots of Alocasia Polly tend to clump. Dividing these roots is the key to good propagation.
- Take the plant out of the soil and rinse any additional soil away with water. You can bathe the root structure in a bucket of water or rinse them under a tap.
- Try to gently separate a clump of roots and corms. You may need to use cutters here and there but try not to damage any roots too severely. Ideally, you should try to pull apart rather than cut as much as possible.
- Repot both the original plant and new divisions in their own pots, and water the soil.
Once this process is complete, take proper care in watering and nurturing the soil of the new plants.
Do not expose the new plants to extremes in temperature or sunlight, at least not until you note new growth.
Alocasia doesn’t need too much space in its pot. In fact, some experts suggest that it likes being slightly compact, though not totally root bound.
Potting – or rather, repotting – an Alocasia Polly is fairly straightforward. You’ll know your plant has outgrown its pot when you can see roots start to break the surface of the soil.
You should also look out for white salt crystals sitting on top of the soil.
Repot during spring for best results. A new plant may need a bigger pot once a year, while a mature Alocasia grows slower, and only requires repotting every couple of years. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the process.
- Water the plant an hour before repotting
- Put new soil into a new pot – fill it to about a third.
- Gently transplant the plant from the old pot to the new but remember to hold it in place.
- Add soil around the roots. You can gently press down to firm up the soil but don’t press too firmly.
- Fill up the pot until the root ball is covered and water the plant to finish.
Keep the plant in a warm spot for the next few weeks but remember to not place it in direct sunlight.
You should not water or fertilize your Alocasia as much in winter. A small watering every two weeks or so should keep the plant well enough during slow growth or dormancy unless you live in a very hot climate.
For the most part, the soil should be a bit drier than in the spring and summer months.
Use your judgment, of course, but many owners have reported that their plants do perfectly well with fairly dry soil over winter.
Don’t be alarmed if your plant stops growing, or even seems to just go a little lifeless during winter. It’s a natural cycle for these types of plants. They will not grow any more during this time. Sometimes it may even seem like they are dying as leaves yellow and discolor. Don’t do anything until spring, when you will likely find the plant bouncing back!
Polly is susceptible to certain pests and problems. Here are a few of the most common issues and how to fix them.
Root rot is really common with Alocasia. It’s primarily caused by overwatering when fungus finds a home around the plant’s roots.
Roots will go mushy and turn black. And ultimately the condition will strangle the root system.
You will need to lift the plant from its soil and check for root rot if you suspect the worst. Rinse away the soil from the roots.
If you spot those black or mushy roots, try to cut them away with cutters that are disinfected. If you have to cut away too much of the root system, it may be too late for your plant.
The primary pest that loves Alocasia is spider mites. These are little mites that look like spiders (surprise) and cover the leaves with a white, web-like substance.
Other pests are also attracted to overwatered plants (or plants in moist environments).
You might be able to wipe the spider mite residue away with a soapy dishcloth (use a normal dish soap and water solution). You might also try a proper gardening anti-fungal solution or neem oil to assist.
Yellow leaves are probably a sign of overwatering. If the problem isn’t the soil( you’re sure the soil is a proper potting mix), try to cut back on the watering regimen.
Some people want to cut off yellow leaves as soon as they appear, but this isn’t always the best course of action. It is better to wait and see if the leaf dies completely first.
There can be a number of reasons for a drooping Polly leaf. In all cases, it means the plant is struggling.
Drooping leaves can be caused by incorrect watering – either too much water or too little.
It can also be a result of poor soil or a lack of fertilizer and nutrients. Is your plant getting enough light? Remember that Alocasia Polly light conditions change season to season.
If it was doing well in summer, it may be struggling to find enough light in winter.
Finally, take a look to see if you can spot any parasites or pests. If a fungus has set in, it could be affecting your plant.
Brown spots are a probable sign of fungal infection. Some insects and pests also cause brown spots by depositing eggs or eating part of the plant. Remember to check the undersides of leaves for these telltale signs as well.
Another possible reason is low humidity in the room. Generally, this will be more associated with the leaf losing color, though.
Mealybugs are the bane of many plants owners’ existence. They are white micro insects covered in a waxy substance.
They act not only as pests themselves but can also spread other diseases to plants. They feed on the juices of a plant and form clusters on the underside of leaves.
Mealybugs are a little tougher to get rid of. But you might try using a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol and wiping the leaves until they’re free of the nasty bugs. You may need to repeat the treatment every few days over a few weeks.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the best recommendations for products related to your Alocasia Polly.
Organic, water-soluble fertilizer is recommended for Alocasia. In the fastest-growing months of spring and summer, you can add a touch of fertilizer to every watering if you are comfortable that you’re not over-fertilizing.
Otherwise, a special fertilizing every few weeks should do. You don’t have to fertilize during the dormant winter months.
Plastic pots are great for Alocasia Polly. They are non-porous and will not draw moisture from the soil like ceramic or clay pots.
As long as your plastic pot has draining holes, you should be fine. It’s also a good idea to use a pot that is slightly too big for the plant if it is still growing.
You might want to try a stylish hanging basket or a floor-standing basket for your Polly. It’s an attractive option, provided your pot can fit inside it with enough drainage.
The broad, variegated cleaves make a wicker basket an interesting natural-looking addition to the presentation.
There’s no need to look into a grow light for Polly, as it doesn’t enjoy too much light anyway. A bright room is best, but the plant should only stand in an area with indirect or filtered light.
Sun rays will turn the leaf tulips brown and may eventually kill your plant.
We’ve mentioned soil. It may be worth adding that you should look for loamy soil to suit a Polly. Perlite is a great addition to many available soils and will work well for these purposes.
Be careful not to use soil that drains too quickly. Clay will also inhibit root growth – it’s just too dense.
If you have little choice, and absolutely have to use sandy or clay-based potting soil, try to mix it with organic compost to make up for the shortcomings.
This will provide enough sustenance, drainage, and moisture to perfectly balance your plant’s water needs.
Let’s address a few common questions about Alocasia Polly. Many novice owners tend to ask these, and they are important to know about.
Alocasia Polly contains calcium oxalate crystals which are, strictly speaking, toxic to pets. Thankfully, they aren’t usually fatal but can cause some unpleasant symptoms.
The crystals release when the leaves or stems are chewed and will cause irritation and inflammation of the mouth and membranes.
If it’s swallowed, the cat or dog may become ill, and in extreme cases will struggle to breathe. Usually, the harshest symptoms include pain, excessive drooling, and possibly vomiting.
Alocasia are tropical plants, and they do enjoy humidity. A misting now and then will definitely benefit your plant, especially in the winter months, or if your climate is especially dry.
Use a decent room humidifier, misting bottle, or pebble tray.
They are pretty, but they may not be the best starter option for a newcomer to houseplants.
It takes a little bit of juggling to get the hang of, given the balance needed when it comes to watering, light, and general Alocasia care.
Curling leaves are a sure sign of problems. The thing is it can be one or more of a number of problems.
Check on the requirements above around getting enough (or not enough) light, possible pest infestation, water needs (too much or too little), and bad soil.
There might also be a chance that your plant pot isn’t big enough, and the plant has a root bound.
Curling, browning, or wilting leaves are the first sign of trouble for your Alocasia. If you leave your ailing plant for too long, the condition will worsen and start to kill your plant.
The sensitivity of the plant is another reason it may not be the best starter plant for a beginner. But chances are that the problem is one of those listed above.
Keep in mind that sometimes a new plant also takes a few days or weeks to adjust to a new home. Plants that are moved can show signs of stress. So just try to make sure you’ve covered all the bases
Despite the notion that it may not be the best choice for a first plant, Alocasia Polly can make a wonderful addition to your collection.
If you feel you have the necessary attention available to give it, it will reward you with a wonderful presence in your living space.
If you don’t mind a plant that goes to sleep over the winter, Alocasia Polly would make a great intermediate plant for you and your home.